QB Clifford ready to take over new-look Penn State team

FILE - In this Nov. 3, 2018, file photo, Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford (14) warms up before an NCAA college football game against Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mich. Clifford always planned to be Penn State’s starting quarterback. The opportunity came sooner than even he expected. Clifford has huge task in replacing Trace McSorley, but he sounds and looks the part.

Sean Clifford is probably going to be Penn State’s starting quarterback when the season begins Aug. 31.

But it seems a little less probable - or at least less obvious - after coach James Franklin declined to name Clifford the starter Wednesday.

Franklin meets with the media after Wednesday practices. Since this Wednesday was only 11 days before the season’s first game-preparation week, many Nittany Lion-watchers assumed Franklin would pull the trigger.

Not even close, he said.

“We haven’t had one discussion yet as a staff on making decisions,’’ he said. “We’re just finishing up the installs, both on offense and defense. We do it that way on purpose.’’

There is some precedent.

Trace McSorley finished his career last year as the winningest QB in Penn State history. In 2016, he won a battle for the job with Tommy Stevens that, according to Franklin, went down to the wire.

Franklin called that one for McSorley, at least publicly, on Wednesday, Aug. 24, just five days before the week of that season’s opening game.

If Stevens was still here, one would expect a Stevens vs. Clifford battle to go to the wire.

But Stevens, plagued by injuries all of last season, has transferred out, to use his final year of eligibility at Mississippi State.

Clifford and Stevens played very sparingly in relief of McSorley last year. Clifford, a redshirt sophomore from Cincinnati, lit it up when he got to throw the football, completing five of seven passes for 195 yards, two touchdowns and no turnovers.

There are four scholarship QBs on the roster: Clifford, redshirt freshman Will Levis and true freshmen Ta’Quan Roberson and Michael Johnson, Jr.

Levis is big (6-3, 240), athletic and a well-regarded prospect. Roberson, from New Jersey, and Johnson, from Oregon, are dual-threat types who enrolled early in January. Obviously, Clifford holds a huge experience and familiarity edge.

“Both Clifford and Levis are doing some really nice things,’’ Franklin said. “The two young kids are starting to get some confidence, too.’’